Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Southampton's mela may be 'excluded' from arts complex

Art Asia may not be included in Southampton's new £7.2m arts complex despite investing up to £4m in it.

The Asian arts group, which organises the annual mela in the city, has worked on the scheme with the council and Arts Council England for 10 years.

However, Art Asia said under new plans by both councils it will no longer be an "anchor tenant" at the Guildhall Square complex.

Its exclusion may mean it will no longer be able to run its events.

Dahlia Jamil, chairwoman for Art Asia, said: "For the last decade Art Asia has invested a huge amount of time and resource into this project, as well as all of its lottery funding, which was specifically allocated for culturally diverse organisations.

"We were the only culturally-diverse organisation to have a presence in the new complex, so to learn the council and Arts Council England are planning to sideline us is devastating news."

'Cultural diversity'

Councillor John Hannides, cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage at Southampton City Council said: "We can understand that the uncertainty surrounding Art Asia... [is] a cause of frustration.

"We have acknowledged the work [it has] done over the years with the council in helping to bring about a venue in which it can showcase the city's cultural diversity.

"We very much hope we can work with all our partners and encourage as many of the cultural organisations in the city to benefit from the new complex."

Plans for the project were originally published in 2003.

The complex, which will be built on the site of the former Tyrrell and Green building, was due to open by 2008, but was delayed due to the recession.

Demolition work to clear the site is almost complete, and when it is built the overall development is expected to create about 300 jobs.

It will be built by developers Grosvenor and will form part of the Cultural Quarter in Southampton, alongside the Sea City Museum, which is set to open in 2012.

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